Someone recently asked me how I keep the house “so clean” when I have two little ones. Others have made comments along those lines, but this was the first time that someone actually asked me and wanted an answer. I listed a couple things and we talked about it some and then moved on. But it’s been something that I’ve thought about off and on since then and so I decided to do a post about it (what ends up happening with a lot of things that I think about for awhile!).
I know that, for me and my husband, we both function better (i.e. are less stressed and don’t get as frustrated) when the house is clean. We both really appreciate neatness and order and I, for one, can think clearer when my floors are relatively clean. Therefore, for me, having a clean house is pretty high on the priority list. While this is can be a good thing, it isn’t always since I sometimes struggle with making it too high of a priority, above spending time with my littles and just letting them be kids. I’m learning to be more okay with mess since I know that inevitably comes with having children. I’m learning to remember the saying that “Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids”. And my patient Father is slowly molding me.
As a general thing though, I think that most people would agree that it’s a good thing to have a clean, uncluttered house…as long as keeping it so is in its proper place. In the last couple years, as I’ve been figuring out how to balance that with everything else a wife and mama has to do, I’ve learned several things and I thought I’d share them. And yes, I do know that I only have two kids right now and I have a small house and therefore it’s probably a lot easier for me to have a clean house than a lot of other mamas. But I’m hoping that in figuring this stuff out now, I can continue to refine it and adjust it to our ever-changing life. Alright…enough with the disclaimers…
Simplify: Get rid of extra stuff! – If I had to list just one thing that I thought helped me keep the house clean, this would be it, hands down. Maybe it goes without saying, but the less stuff you have, the less stuff you need to clean. Both Aaron and I are minimalists by nature, so it’s relatively easy for us to get rid of stuff we don’t need or use, but it’s entirely possible to do it even if you’re not a minimalist. I love the quote “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful“. It’s a good thing to consider when de-cluttering…if you don’t really use something or you don’t really like it (i.e. believe it’s beautiful), then why do you have it?
As any parent knows, toys definitely become their own monster, especially as your littles get older and accumulate more and more of them. We’ve dealt with this by regularly going through Cedar’s toys and getting rid of those he doesn’t play with that often (especially since his favourite “toys” are just regular household things). And the toys he does play with all have their own specific spot. That way, when he’s not playing with them, they’re contained and not spilling into the main traffic areas.
Set aside several times throughout the day where you pick up the house – For me, I’ve found that having the house picked up several times a day, makes sure that the mess doesn’t accumulate too much…as any mom of littles knows, that can happen quickly. So, at our house, I try to make a point of having Cedar clean up his toys (with help) before his morning nap and in the late afternoon, before Daddy comes home. That way, all the toys are put away so I can get some cleaning done during naptime, and the house is relatively clutter-free when Aaron walks in the door. It doesn’t always happen, especially if I don’t make a point to help Cedar before I get started on supper preparations (trying to direct him while making supper usually ends up stressing both of us out…not a happy scene for Daddy to come home to!), but it’s something I try to do if it works out. And making a point to pick things up several times throughout the day means that each of those times won’t take nearly as long as one big pick up…which, for me, fits into our loose schedule much better (and more easily holds a toddler’s attention).
Try to go to bed with a relatively picked up house and a clean kitchen – This is similar to the previous point, but deserves its own mention as it’s something I’ve found very helpful. When I wake up in the morning (usually quite early, thanks to my two little alarm clocks!) and am ready to start my day, if I walk out into a cluttered house and messy kitchen, it’s very discouraging. I’d much rather take ten minutes in the evening and pick things up and wash a couple dishes, than deal with it in the morning, but maybe that’s just me. And picking up his toys one last time is part of Cedar’s bedtime routine so that is a big help in moving toward a relatively clean house when Aaron and I go to bed.
Clean as you go – With two under two, I don’t often have huge chunks of time to devote to major cleaning projects. So I try to do my daily cleaning in little chunks of time as I’m doing other stuff. If I’m in the bathroom, and notice it needs to wiped down, I take a minute or two to do so…and then the bathroom is clean for the day (it does get deep-cleaned too, just not every day). Or if I walk into our bedroom and notice that there’s clothes on the floor and random things on the dresser and bed, I take a couple minutes and put things away right then…and now the bedroom is clean.
Utilize naptime – This is pretty much a no-brainer for any mom, but it bears mentioning because naptime is the main time that I get any big cleaning projects done (along with blogging, answering e-mails, etc…I love naptime!). I’m a big fan of babywearing, but I actually don’t like trying to deep-clean the bathroom (even with natural cleaners) with a baby strapped to me. Enter naptime! Obviously, when they get older, I’ll have the kids help me with cleaning, but right now, that’s not really an option (though Cedar loves to “dust” with my lambswool duster!).
Once a week/month cleaning – This past spring I read a blog post on once a month cleaning. And while I don’t follow her system exactly, I realized that it’s something that I’ve been practicing in regard to my cleaning routines…and it works great! The basic concept is: if you daily keep your house relatively clean, you only need to deep-clean once a month. I don’t have a specific schedule, and there are certain deep-cleaning things that I do more regularly than once a month. But the basic idea is good and works well when you don’t have a lot of big chunks of time to devote to cleaning. For me this looks like…trying to sweep daily, but usually mopping only once a week (we have wood floors throughout the whole house), or trying to wipe down the bathroom daily, but only deep-cleaning it (i.e. full-on scrubbing of the sink, toilet and bath) about once every two weeks or so. And when I do need to set aside those larger chunks of time for deep-cleaning, I only need to take up one naptime a week (or every two weeks) to do so.
Prioritize – I shared earlier that I struggle with making sure not to put having a clean house before other things that are more important. That said, I do believe it is important to make certain cleaning tasks a priority…that way they’re more likely to get done and not always get pushed further and further down the list and then don’t end up happening at all. Obviously, if you have a sick baby or a little one who is having a needy day, they always take priority over cleaning, but I know that for me, something needs to be pretty high on my list for the day in order for it to get done. For me this looks like not spending extended periods of time doing computer stuff until I have my cleaning done for the day. Some days this mean that I don’t get much computer time, but it usually just means that I take fifteen to twenty minutes at the beginning of naptime to sweep, do breakfast dishes, clean up clutter, etc. before I sit down to blog or edit or answer e-mails. That way, I know it’ll be done and the rest of the day will go much smoother than having deal with a dirty kitchen or messy floor because I sat down to the computer right away and boom! naptime was gone before I knew it (guess how I know this happens?!).
Those are some things that I’ve found to helpful in the last couple years. As I said earlier, I hope to continue to refine our “system” as our lives continue to change. For me, having a clean house has become almost a “ministry” of sorts. I know that it’s so much more relaxing for my husband to come home to a clean house after a long day at work. I know our home is a haven to him from the demands of the world, and clutter can take much away from that. Also having a clean home goes a long way in making your house more peaceful and relaxing to guests also. (Obviously there’s many more things that play into have a peaceful home, and too much focus on cleanliness can end up promoting strife.)
In this, as in everything, the key is balance…and maybe someday I’ll finally get it down.